"Hey, what's this all about?"
"I'll be fucked if I know..."
It's true hard work never killed anybody,
but I figure, why take the chance?
Everyone needs a resume. It is a passport to crucial livelihood options, such as the ability to dine in fine restaurants rather than from the dumpster behind the local 7-11; to live in a home of one's own rather than a refrigerator shipping crate; and perhaps most importantly, to put one's personal stamp on the truck and commerce of the world at large: to make one's mark, as it were. Like you, Valued Readers, we also maintain such a resume, and like most of you -- having studied our Negroponte -- we have put it online in digital form. You can view it at:
But there is a fatal flaw in such documents. They give dates and datapoints, but rarely add up to a whole -- or even barely adequate -- picture of the individual they are intended to represent in absentia. We here at EGR World HQ have been struggling with this problem for some time. Readers who have followed the development of this excremental little zine will immediately recognize the foremost source of our discomfiture in this regard, i.e., we are plural. In contrast, the canonical resume seeks to present a profile of its subject as a predictably one-dimensional persona. As we all know, such entities do not occur in nature.
True, we could add a section to our curriculum vitae along the following lines:
HobbiesHowever, as long-time readers will instantly recognize, these various characterizations hardly do justice to the much larger agenda we have come to term, for lack of a more embracing label, "Entropy Gradient Reversals."
- Fomenting Cognitive Chaos
- Propagating Semiotic Field Disruption
- Disseminating Disinfotainment
Finally, though, we have hit upon a solution to this thorny problem, and it comes from a most unexpected quarter: the garden variety cover letter. The purpose of such an instrument is to place the job applicant's work experience and skill base into the context of overall career goals. We realized we could leverage an enormous asset to overcome this perennial impasse: our trusty AI, BOMBAST II. Since the system had already been programmed (at great expense we might add) to reflect our assumptions, inclinations, passions, and general feelings about life, the universe and everything, what, we reasoned, could more perfectly convey a holistic impression of our True -- even if multipartite -- Self?
For those interested in the methodology employed, it is briefly described in a previous issue: The BOMBAST II Transcripts, Run 1: I Was a Teenage Brain Surgeon. One new addition was the hyperlinking module, on which BOMBAST II seems to have relied quite heavily, as demonstrated in the following output.
Dear Prospective Employer:
As you can see from the attached resume, we are highly qualified for the position of [insert anal retentive job title here]. However, we are bored beyond tears by your published job description. We'd like to take this opportunity to propose something a little different.
Even a fleeting glimpse of our CV will alert you to the fact that we have attempted to practice some form of marketing in organizations, which -- as we're sure you'll recognize from your own long experience -- could not position their way out of the proverbial wet paper bag. Of course, some of these work engagements date back to the Jurassic era, when such bungling botchery might more readily be forgiven by markets that knew the perpetrators only as four-color spreads in Business Week. However, now that the Internet has become home to all bipedal hominids living outside of zoos, such ineptitude has become a threat to the very survival of many corporations not unlike your own. On the off chance that your firm is not among the aforementioned class of doddering dunderheads, the following outlines several salient truths we believe we have grasped with respect to the changing nature of consumer expectations in today's increasingly online economy.
Most of these insights come from publishing what is referred to in Internet parlance as a "webzine" -- a new phenomenon that differs from the traditional magazine to the same degree that anti-lock brakes differ from a poke in the eye with a sharp stick shift. We have been publishing Entropy Gradient Reversals since May 1 1996, and in that time have gathered a modest subscriber base of some 1200 souls -- or 2400 "eyeballs," to again use the prevailing Internet lingo. While these numbers may appear trivial when compared to, say, the 80 million visitors per day to Microsoft's web server, we believe they represent a significant "focus group" by which certain critical inferences can be drawn about consumer attitudes in general. As we move into a far more networked business milieu, foreknowledge of this shifting mindset could well be defining of success or failure in your company's future online initiatives.
We group our findings about Internet audiences into three distinct categories:
- overall characteristics,
- things they could give a shit about, and
- things they appear to value.
1. Overall Characteristics
- Not half as stupid as they look
The typical Internet denizen may appear to be as dumb as the consumer targeted by traditional media. Do not be deceived. However, many of your marketing "professionals" are deeply committed to believing this bit of wishful catechetical lore in the face of massive evidence to the contrary. Perhaps your company is a product of those very Old Media principles you cannot seem to relinquish, and thus, far less intelligent than your intended customers. If so, take a wild guess at the inevitable result.
- Low tolerance for horseshit
Put simply, the New Audience isn't having any. Your corporate credibility plus a buck-twenty-five might buy you a cup of coffee. You are World Class. You are Uniquely Positioned. You are Sincere. "Yup, uh-huh," your market is thinking to itself: "Losers!"
- Highly influential in their own sphere
If you had to pick just one of the new market realities to wise up to, this would be the best to heed: these folks talk to each other. They couldn't do that half as easily with the TV blaring or just by reading the newspaper. But online, talk they do. And if the poster/emailer/web author appears to know what he or she is talking about -- or is just plain whacked enough to provide some respite from your constant barrage of commercial shovelware -- then others tend to listen. Just what are they talking about, you ask? Why, they're talking about you! (btw, do you know what "LOL" means?)
- "Trust No One"
This X-Files tagline has become the rallying cry of a whole new generation of consumers upon whose willing suspension of disbelief your company is nonetheless, as always, utterly dependent. They sometimes buy your shit, of course. But only after wading through and sorting out your outright lies and microscopically fractional truths. Internet audiences expect this of you, as you've provided them no alternative. God help your ass if some other outfit ever does.
- On speaking terms with alternate realities
While hardly exhausting our possible list of New Audience character traits, this one seems to us to be disproportionately significant. These people literally do not live in the same universe you inhabit. They would sooner listen to a lengthy lecture by the White Rabbit than read another of your pathetically well reasoned homepage disquisitions. They would rather have their fortunes told by Madame Blavatsky than drop by your trade show booth. Now what does this tell us?
2. Things They Could Give a Shit About
- Your products
Bo-ring! While the latest addition to your product lineup may seem to you to warrant all that bloody noise, most of the people hitting your web pages are throwing up their hands in disgust. In more advanced cases, they're simply throwing up. Christ, what is wrong with you people? Don't they ever let you cruise around out here? If you surfed a little more you might realize that your "missionary work" is tantamount to preaching virginity at an Ozzie Osborne concert.
- Your press releases
Oh yeah, that was real interesting! These are especially fascinating when they contain executive comments of the form: "ButtWipe International is [pleased/thrilled/creaming in its jeans] to [reassert/demonstrate] its commitment to meeting [customer/client/prospect] [needs/requirements/whims] by [providing/offering] tools that [enable/promote] [efficient/effective/spasmodic] market [penetration/buggery]..." You mean to say that your new relationship with Pac-Rim SuperCompany X underscores your global market dominance? Well gosh. But the cat just puked up a hairball, which is a far more compelling thing to contemplate.
- Your CEO's latest speech at COMDEX
It has become a cliche among political pundits that no one outside Washington gives a flying fig for the big-deal doings inside the Beltway. Why is it so hard to apply this simple lesson to the computer industry? Here's the short-form analysis your market is according you far from the hot-air hosery of the Power Circuit: "Hey man, your thing just crashed. It's dogfood. Next!"
- Your competitive strategy
Yada yada, blah blah blah. However, on the other hand and notwithstanding, blah blah, yada-yada, blah. Class? Are we picking up on this? CLASS?!?!?!
- Aristotelian logic and Cartesian dualism
Remember that what makes perfect sense to you may not compute at all in the mind of the market you hope to attract. New Media audiences are more like Cargo Cults than anything you've ever had to deal with before now. In fact, according to an informal survey, no reader of Entropy Gradient Reversals had the slightest notion what the above terms even referred to, and most were deeply uncertain about the publication's name.
3. Things They Appear to Value
- Disdain for authority
While ad hominem attacks are not tolerated or condoned by responsible Netizens, corporations have set themselves up in such a way that they have no legal culpability as persons. Unable to have their cake and eat it too, they are therefore flame bait for every cyber-neurotic with a deep seated grudge against Big Brother business organizations. Unfortunately for you, this group represents roughly 99.9999% of your target market. Online audiences never cease to be amused by random vicious attacks on lame-brained companies too mired in corporate protocol to rise to their own defense. You plan to call in your lawyers in such cases? What an excellent idea.From: RageBoy <email@example.com> To: all.usenet.crazies Subject: net-wide flame fest set for thursday! pass it on...
- Communicational competence
Congratulations on that new corporate homepage! You sound like a sexless droid with a badly damaged Personality Module. Anyone who can manage to come across as a human being with likes and and dislikes, hopes and fears, and doesn't appear to have been programmed in spaghetti-code COBOL has far more chance of being heard. Your brand, you say? Save it for when you end up punching cows -- shouldn't take long at the rate you're slaloming down the charts.
- Big words -- and lots of em
Sending readers to the dictionary would seem a fatal move with respect to an audience having the collective attention span of a swarm of gnats. We were surprised by this one ourselves. The lesson to be gleaned here is that the mass media have spoken down to people for so long that they seem to find it positively refreshing when someone talks over their heads. The only other person we know of to have figured this out is William F. Buckley -- and he's an asshole!
<!-- note to Legal: can we say that here? -ed. -->
- Undeserved abuse
Another eye-opener is the appallingly masochistic bent so many demonstrate in this new medium. This is probably related to the former point. Corporate communications have for so long curried favor by stroking readers' egos that the tactic is simply no longer effective. On the other hand, telling people to fuck off seems to win hearts and minds online. Who would have guessed?
- Entropy Gradient Reversals
Granted, our sample for this study was self-selecting, so your mileage may vary as to the statistical significance of our little focus group. The one thing it seems to value unequivocally -- with the exception of the misgbegotten swine who will surely unsubscribe as a result of this issue -- is EGR itself. For all the reasons suggested above, we believe our publication has been an enormously effective vehicle for magnetizing an audience typical of the market whose trust you must win in order to remain viable into the 21st Century.
Right about now, you're probably wondering, "But how could this work for my organization?" Well, good, because that's just what we've been leading up to. The simple fact is: you could virtually own Entropy Gradient Reversals, locke, stock and barrel. That's right, we're putting the whole zine up for sale to the highest bidder -- or perhaps we should say "up for rent." Who will "acquire" us? Netscape? Microsoft? Novell? Oracle? IBM? We're incredibly excited about the whole idea. We're peeing our pants with anticipation. And which of these organizations wouldn't share our excitement? Imagine being able to say:
Entropy Gradient Reversals is brought to you by [Your Company Name Here].
Aside from the fact that it'll cost you a boatload of cash, there's only one non-negotiable condition: we will continue to write exactly as we have to date. Think of the recognition, stature and unparalleled prestige your company will gain with online communities when we trash you right along with the rest of the Clue Impaired. And the beauty part? You get a banner on every page at no extra charge!
Now, perhaps, you can better understand why we are not interested in applying for your advertised position as [insert anal retentive job title here]. This is so much better! We have long believed that, as corporations come increasingly to resemble the great City States of the High Renaissance, they should also adopt one of the noblest institutions of that golden era: patronage. If you like our basic idea but would argue that your investment ought to buy you greater editorial control, think about Michelangelo for a minute. Imagine Lorenzo insisting on having "Bank With Medici!" inserted into various panels on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. See what we mean? It'd just wreck the whole thing.
Eagerly awaiting a response at your earliest convenience, we remain...
Entropy Gradient Reversals CopyLeft Christopher Locke firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.rageboy.com
"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon
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